Pastor Discusses Book ‘Where Was God on September

CNN Transcripts, Sep. 10, 2002
Aired September 10, 2002 – 10:47 ET

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: In the aftermath of the terror attacks, many Americans turned to their faith, and some turned away. That anguish and the religious soul-searching that followed inspired our next guest to write a book with a friend of him. It’s entitled simply “Where Was God on September 11?: A Scientist Asks a Ground Zero Pastor.”

Father Frank Geer is that ground zero pastor. He’s joining us to discuss the book he wrote with his friend John Horgan, who — is it fair to say he describes himself as an agnostic?


KAGAN: That is fair.

Reverend, good morning. Thank you for joining us.

GEER: You’re welcome.

KAGAN: I have to say I found it absolutely fascinating to sit up last night reading this book. I felt like I was hanging out on a park bench with both you and John as you had this discussion. And it was kind of fun and interesting and challenging to go along in your discussion.

I’m wondering, for you, how do you answer that question for yourself: Where was God on September 11?

GEER: What we do in the book is try to explore a number of different possible answers. John presents four or five from his perspective. I present four or five from mine. The most compelling one for me, the one he finally pins me down on, is that God has a plan and that even something as terrible as events of September 11 are part of that plan and down the road we will realize that God was involved in a significant way. I know that is hard news for some of the people who suffer so deeply, but that’s really what my faith teaches me.

KAGAN: I would love it if we had John here with us so you two could have the conversation. So I am going to help our conversation along by presenting some of the points that he makes.

GEER: You be John.

KAGAN: I don’t think I could do him justice. But some of the points he brings up, was it luck. IS there a reason that some people were in the tower, some people were not? Does God love some people more than he loves other people? GEER: One of the most compelling stories that I tell from personal experience in the book is about a firemen who was saved from the building and his four team members who all died. He had this incredible sense that God had somehow saved and rescued him at the same time that God abandoned the four people that he worked with. And I talk a lot about the faith that he needs develop to deal with that ambiguity.

John says quite simply he was lucky and others weren’t and that’s all there is, that there’s no…

KAGAN: I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt. But you also bring up an interesting conflict, even for yourself, that’s difficult to explain, that that firefighter has to have faith and he has to realize that he was blessed and beloved. With that line of thinking, it makes him very similar to the hijackers, who believe they were chosen by God and they were blessed and they were beloved by their god. How do you reconcile that?

GEER: Exactly. I think that what it points out dramatically is that religious people have to learn to use their faith for constructive and healing purposes, not for violent and destructive purposes and that faith in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing. It depends on how it is applied and how it’s used in the world.

KAGAN: I think one of the most comforting things I found from what you had to say in the book is talking about how pain, how pain ripples out and how many people were affected by September 11. But you also point out that healing ripples back in and it goes in both directions. I’m wondering if that is what you will talk about at ground zero tomorrow.

GEER: The most important thing that we can offer to each other right after tragedy like that and a year later as we observe it is just compassionate listening, listening to one another’s stories and trying to help with that healing process. That’s the ripple effect I’m talking about. And it is exactly that.

I will be praying about and talking about, tomorrow, along with the professional efforts of helping professionals who would really help divert a second tragedy, the tragedy of suicide and substance abuse and the things that could have followed on the heels of the disaster, because of the enormous amount of counseling and help they’ve offered people of New York and especially first responders.

KAGAN: In fact, we are going to have a chance to talk with former first lady Rosalynn Carter about that very issue, mental health issues.

Reverend Frank Geer, I could talk to you for hours, sir. It’s great to have you with us. One again, the book “Where Was God on September 11?” written with your friend John Horgan. We will be listen for you and listening for you tomorrow at ground zero. Thanks for taking some time with us this morning. We appreciate it.

GEER: Thank you so much.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday September 11, 2002.
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